Bruce R. McGuire 1948-2012

Civic treasure, beloved dad and inspiration of the Santa Cruz Style of Lutherie

Bruce McGuire was my pal. He was my mentor. He was an exceptionally good man. In 1972 my beloved Martin Guitar was stolen. The only good from that was the 1965 Epiphone Texan I found to replace it, and Bruce McGuire, who I found to finance it. As the manager of a storefront consumer loan outfit, Bruce took my application for the $250 shortfall with the offhanded comment that he liked guitars as well; in fact he made them and produced a newspaper clipping to prove it.

I had harbored this expectation of making my own guitar for years and being at that station in life where I expected everything to play out as I willed it, I asked Bruce what night of the week was best for him to teach me how to make guitars. Between questions on my creditworthiness, he said Wednesdays.  And so it was.

Now this story is about Bruce and not me. Most people reading this know something about what I’ve done to add or detract from Bruce’s guitar making legacy. What most of you don’t know is the impact of Bruce’s character on the worldwide community of contemporary guitar makers.

A couple of immediate lessons were imprinted on me in our first sessions.

My bringing beer as a tribute wasn’t received in the spirit that I intended. This for two reasons; first it was inappropriate, but more important it was unnecessary.

Most guitar makers are able to learn about the downside of beer in the workshop through their own trial and error. It is the unnecessary nature of payment upfront that was the important part of the message Bruce taught me the first day at his workbench.  In response to my awkward attempt to pay him for my lessons he told me that the only thing he wanted in return was for me to pass on his knowledge in the same spirit that I received it; willingly and without an expectation of payback.  My memory is very clear on what he told me; “You always get more than you give, Do your best. It works every time”.  So I did and it does.

40 years later, and nearly to the day, over 100 new guitar makers have gone through our shop or studied the Santa Cruz style,  Bruce’s legacy, in workshops and seminars around  the globe. They make the best guitars of the utmost integrity in the world today.  They practice their art in India, Germany, South Africa, France, Canada, Japan, Spain, The Netherlands and Santa Cruz, California. They have sparked a renaissance of interest among young people and retirees and they have influenced every major brand and inspired a completely new genre of boutique guitar builders.

The world has enjoyed a genuine blossoming of refinement and quality of the guitar maker’s art over the last several decades. The blame goes to the explosion of information and technique once protected by secretive guilds and now shared openly among competing businesses with outputs from 1 guitar per month to I million guitars per year.  You will find an important clue to the origins of this profound change of heart published in current college text books on quality control and manufacturing ethics. You’ll read it in the mission statements of the largest musical instrument makers. And almost to a word in an award to Bruce McGuire’s most grateful student from the American Society of Quality Assurance Professionals; “You always get more than you give. Do your best.  It works every time

My eternal gratitude to Bruce for his unselfish gift of my livelihood. On behalf of the thousands of guitar makers who may never know his name, though are inspired by his legacy and philosophy of giving: You did good brother, your voice is heard every time our guitars are played.

Richard Hoover
Santa Cruz Guitar Co.
December 2012

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